Naked Fruit: Getting Honest About the Fruit of the Spirit
Quick. When I say "go," name as many of the Fruits of the Spirit as you can. Ready? Okay, go!
So, how did you do? I got seven of the nine that time. I left out faithfulness and goodness. That doesn't bode well, does it! In case you need a refresher too, the Fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul talks about them in Galatians 5:22-23 (Hint: If you haven't already, read the whole chapter of Galatians 5 to pick up the context in which Paul talks about the Fruit of the Spirit) and chances are good that if you've been around churches for a while, you've heard plenty of sermons about those nine small, yet seemingly unattainable, words.
In her new book, NAKED FRUIT: Getting Honest About the Fruit of the Spirit, Elisa Morgan is on a mission to make developing spiritual produce less daunting.
"Growing a fruit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control seems beyond our grasp.
"That's because we think that growing such fruit is about being nice. Plus, we think it's all up to us to produce. Neither is true."
Morgan, who also serves as president and CEO of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, goes on to point out that Jesus was always loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. But he was always nice about it. He told a prostitute to stop sinning out of his love. He ordered the Pharisees to quit making up rules that made faith harder than it needed to be out of love, too. In kindness he touched a leper at a time when he was forbidden to do so. He peacefully slept in a rocking boat on a stormy sea. "Such moments don't define 'niceness'," she says. "But they are definitely fruit-filled."
Debunking the idea that developing the Fruits of the Spirit is up to us is next on Morgan's agenda. "It's not our job to produce these qualities in our lives or in the lives of those around us. That's God's job: fruit production. The fruit of the Spirit grows when we let him live these qualities in us and through us as we are growing in a relationship with him."
After explaining her thesis, Morgan offers a chapter on each of the desired attributes. In short, succinct prose, she effectively challenges readers to reconsider their preconceived notions about what it means to be patient or self-controlled. She talks about "seasonal fruit," times when we're blessed with an abundance of joy and love and times when we can't find an orange or an apple anywhere. And then she talks about the importance of giving fruit away.
Each of the 16 chapters in this book can be read in under ten minutes. As such, they're perfectly suited to small daily nibbles during your quiet time or to one big bite on a lazy afternoon. Either way, the message is clear:
"Naked fruit is honest. We don't have to dress it up to make it better. It admits, 'I can't really do any more today, I'm bushed. But I'd love to help out tomorrow.' It suggests, 'A better time for me to commit would be in the early afternoon while the kids are in preschool.' Naked fruit isn't 24/7 availability to impossible expectations. But, drawing from a relationship with God, naked fruit does try --- openly and sincerely.
"Naked fruit is about getting past the peeling of 'nice' Christianity and getting down to the honest, simple truth: The fruit of the Spirit is about being like Jesus.
"God makes it simple. We make it hard. We want to grow a life that matters, and he wants to grow such a life in us. That's fruit minus the peeling. Naked fruit.
"Want a bite?"
Yes, indeed, and NAKED FRUIT is one dish I heartily recommend.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on September 1, 2004